By Rhema Sayers
On a Friday afternoon Edith Stillwell sat at her desk, as she did every day, and stared out the window, fuming. For once the view of the Catalina Mountains didn’t calm her. She was glaring at the men unloading supplies from their truck in front of Sandra Terry’s house. And carrying those supplies to a point in Sandra’s yard not twenty feet from where Edith sat. Those supplies with which they would construct an RV garage, big enough for two vehicles. Big enough to totally block out that mountain vista that Edith loved.
Her eyes strayed down to the chapter she was writing on the computer, but it was no good trying to continue. Sandra was out there with the workers, supervising, decked out in her Native American style blouse and skirt, looking like Roseanne Barr in a bad Western. She’d probably give every one of those men an ulcer before the project was finished.
When Sandra had first moved in next door in Mountain View Desert Estates, Edith had invited her over for tea and cookies. They had quite a bit in common. Both were widows in their late 70s.
Edith glanced down at Samson, her Border Collie. “That didn’t work out very well, though did it, Sam?”
The dog wagged his tail.
Edith had taken a dislike to the woman from the first, right from the moment when Sandra had shrieked at the sight of Samson and insisted that the dog be put outside. Then she talked incessantly.
“Last year I was on the road about 50% of the time. I drove from Massachusetts to Minnesota and then down through St. Louis to Albuquerque. I’d drive about three hundred miles a day and then find an RV campground and stop for a week or two and explore. It’s the thrill of discovery, don’t you know?
“But then you wouldn’t understand that. Santa Fe is just so exquisite. And all those Indians sitting on the ground and selling that gorgeous turquoise jewelry!” She held her right hand out so Edith could admire the gaudy bracelets and multiple rings which made her pudgy fingers look even pudgier. “Then I decided to have a peek at Phoenix and Tucson. Phoenix is just so full of smog, don’t you think?”
She stopped just long enough to take a sip of tea and a bite of cookie before continuing.
“So I came on down to Tucson and just fell in love with the town. It’s just so picturesque. I just love the ghetto area…”
“It’s a barrio, not a ghetto.” Interrupted Edith. "A ghetto is a... ”
“Whatever. Ghetto. Barrio. It’s all the same. Don’t you think? You can get some wonderful bargains. Those people just don’t know the value of what they’re selling. Don’t you know?” She had continued to talk nonstop for the next half hour and then insisted on a tour of the house, all the while chatting. Edith had been exhausted when it was over.
On her way out, Sandra had mentioned that she would be building a garage for her RV, but hadn’t decided where to put it. Edith had looked at the monstrous vehicle and wondered how big a garage would have to be to hold it. She imagined a two story Quonset hut in her neighbor’s backyard.
“I really don’t think that’s a good idea.” she ventured. “I’m sure there’s a rule in the Home Owners’ Association book that limits the height of any outbuildings.”
“Well! I’ll thank you to keep your nose out of my business!’ And with a snort, Sandra had made her way ponderously homeward.
Surely there had to be a rule against putting up such a structure.
Now she looked down at Sam and grimaced. “Well, I tried, Sam. I really did.”
Sam sighed and licked a paw.
She had pleaded with Sandra and been rebuffed. The third time she’d tried to talk to the woman, Sandra had picked up a jar of sun tea, brewing on her patio and had thrown it at her, threatening to call the police unless Edith got off her property.
A visit to the Planning and Zoning commission accomplished nothing. Sandra had already been there and filled out the forms and gotten permission.
The last chance involved getting a court order. So Edith hired a lawyer and took Sandra to court.
But Sandra’s lawyer was more expensive than Edith’s and Sandra won the case.
Edith was watering her oleanders one Friday afternoon when she heard Sandra talking to a man just on the other side of the hedge.
“Are you sure you want the garage placed there, Mrs. Terry?”
Sandra replied in her strident voice. “Yes. Right there where the bougainvillea is now. You’ll have to tear out those bushes.”
“Ma’am, that will be right up next to your neighbor’s yard. The building is fifteen feet high. You’ll be blocking her view of the mountains.”
“Well, that will just be too bad.” sniffed Sandra and they moved away. The bottom dropped out of Edith’s stomach.
Now Edith held her head in both hands and stared down at the scarred surface of her desk. Her eyes strayed to the row of books on the top shelf of her bookcase. Twelve novels. Twelve murder mysteries. And each murder had been plotted right here at this desk.
Her gaze shifted back to Sandra and the workmen and she found herself staring directly into Sandra’s eyes. The woman smiled like a crocodile smiles just before it clamps its teeth into the gazelle.
Edith was again at her desk when the workmen showed up bright and early on Monday morning. There seemed to be some confusion as the men milled about.
Her hand on Samson’s head, she spoke to him softly. “Well, I wonder what’s going on now. It looks like Sandra isn’t home, Sam.”
Sam perked up his ears.
Eventually a boss showed up and everyone collected their tools and left.
The neighborhood was very peaceful for two days.
On Wednesday Edith was watching a flight of buzzards floating high above the desert when two uniformed police officers appeared next door. They circled the house and were looking into Sandra’s windows. Apparently they saw something because they broke in.
Edith and Samson stepped outside, where Samson barked a few times to inform the cops of his territorial rights and then sat down to watch the proceedings.
An ambulance came wailing through the quiet streets. Edith sighed and looked down at Sam.
“This doesn’t bode well, my friend.”
Sam looked up at her, raised one ear and sneezed.
gurney was rolled into the house. A long
time later it rolled out again, with an occupied body
“Poor Sandra” Edith murmured. “But I sincerely doubt that too many people will miss her.”
She was not surprised when the plain clothes cops showed up. One of them detached himself from the group and came over to talk to her.
He introduced himself as Detective Saminiego and he got a big grin on his face when she told him her name.
“The author, right? You write murder mysteries. I’ve read a bunch of your books.”
She grinned back at him. “And what did you think of them, Detective?”
“Not half bad, Ma’am. You know your stuff.”
They talked for a few minutes about Sandra. Edith told him about the ongoing argument over the garage construction. Then she went in and got her most recent book and autographed it for him.
“Thank you, Ma’am. This really makes my day.”
“So what do you think happened to Sandra?”
“Probably had a heart attack. Her family doc says he’ll sign the death certificate. He saw her last month, so there’s no need for the coroner to get involved.”
He thanked her again for the book and returned to the house next door.
Edith returned to her backyard, picking up the hose again. Samson wandered over to her and started sniffing the oleanders.
“No, Sam!” She ordered. “Oleanders are bad for dogs. Leave them alone.”
Samson started chasing a butterfly and Edith watered her oleanders.
Rhema Sayers is a retired ER doctor. She lives in the Arizona desert with three dogs and the same husband she married decades ago. Children are grown and off on their own adventures. She’s trying out a second career as a writer.
Copyright © 2015 Rhema Sayers. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!
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